When Hamilton Loomis’ mentor, Bo Diddley, told him to find his own sound and not copy anyone else’s, that’s just what Loomis set out to do. Now, more than 20 years later, Loomis is playing rock and blues on his new Christmas album that doesn’t sound like the Christmas music one hears when meandering around Katy Mills during the holidays.
“I started singing with [my parents] when I was 14 on stage,” Loomis said. “I gradually started writing my own music a few years later. I was very fortunate because I am the tail end of the generation that got to not only meet – but play with some of the blues greats.”
Loomis’ parents fostered a love of music in him, he said. That passion for song led him to traveling with his parents to perform and meet other musicians. Among the musicians he felt privileged to meet were Johnny Colbert, Albert Collins and Houston’s Joe “Guitar” Hughes.
“They all grew up in Houston,” Loomis said. “They were eager to take on the younger generation at the time – I was like, 15 – they were eager to teach the craft to youngsters. They knew they weren’t going to be around forever.”
There was also Bo Diddley. In 1992, when Loomis was 16, he was backstage at one of Diddley’s concerts at Rockefeller’s in Houston and had the opportunity to play for Diddley. Later that night, Diddley pulled Loomis onstage to play a song with him, and Loomis was sucked even further into the rock and blues world he admired. Loomis said that the generosity Diddley showed him was something Diddley didn’t have to do, but he had found a friend and mentor.
“Mainly it was all the advice and all of the stories that he told,” Loomis said. “And encouragement – He encouraged me to not sound like him, to find my own voice, to find my own style.”
He fell so in love with performing that his passion awarded him with a Grammy nomination in 1995 for his album, “Hamilton”. Loomis said the concert with Diddly was his crossroads which eventually led him to forsaking a traditional career path after he finished college and pursuing music full time.
“As I wrote more material and started recording and that sort of thing, I just kept performing and eventually found a booking agent and started touring back in 2001,” Loomis said.
Eventually, Loomis met his wife, Sabrina LaField and they had a son whom they named after Diddley. Bo’s development was slower than expected though, and after several back and forth discussions with doctors who dismissed their concerns as those of first-time parents, they found out they had a “sugar baby.” Bo was born with hyperninsulinism, a rare form of hypoglycemia that causes the body to produce too much insulin, which reduces blood sugar counts and causes other health complications, Loomis said.
Loomis credits LaField with being a “relentless mama honey badger” in finally getting Bo diagnosed and treated for his hyperinsulinism. When Bo was 17 months old, LaField had to insist that physicians check his blood sugar – which turned out to be 40. The ideal fasting blood sugar is 70-100, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Bo is now five years old and attends Katy ISD schools, but Loomis said life with hypoglycemia – Bo’s condition was downgraded from congenital hyperinsulinism to severe hypoglycemia in the last few months – is still challenging. Whenever Bo is sick, Loomis and LaField must be cautious to ensure that his medication and the sugars he ingests stay down in order to keep his blood sugar up. Being advocates for Bo in discussions with medical professionals and school staff is vital for Bo’s safety, Loomis said. Fortunately, he said, the two have complementary personalities.
“I think probably the best way to integrate that conversation in is she is the like the big idea person,” Loomis said. “I’m the trees guy and she’s about the forest.”
That synergy plays into Loomis’ music parenting and career. His wife has helped him come up with the concepts for albums while he wrote and performed the songs. They also work together to raise awareness for congenital hyperinsulinism and support Congenital Hyperinsulinism International – a nonprofit that helps families affected by the disease.
The opening track to Loomis’ “Basics” album is entitled “Sugar Babies” in honor of his son, as is “This Season,” the title track to his new album which he performed at a Wildcatter Saloon launch party on Nov. 29. Again, it was Loomis’ wife that pushed him to make the album using holiday song ideas he’d been working on for a while and putting them into one collection of five holiday classics and five original songs.
“I always kind of wanted to do a Christmas CD and I’ve never done it,” Loomis said. “This year my wife just, at the last minute too, it was like September – said you just need to do it.”